JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s naval vessels searched Thursday Thursday for a submarine that likely fell too deep to find, reducing the chances of survival for the 53 people on board. Authorities said the submarine would run out of oxygen early Saturday.
The diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 was participating in a training exercise on Wednesday when it missed a scheduled reporting call. Officials reported an oil spill and the smell of diesel fuel near the start location of his last dive, about 60 miles north of the holiday island of Bali, although there is no conclusive evidence that they are connected to the submarine.
“Hopefully we can save them before the oxygen runs out,” said the Indonesian naval chief of staff, Adm. Yudo Margono told reporters at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday.
He said rescuers found an unidentified object with high magnetism in the area and officials hope it is the submarine.
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The Navy believes the submarine sank to a depth of 2,000 to 2,300 feet – much deeper than its collapse depth, which was estimated at 656 feet by a company that refitted the ship in 2009-2012.
Ahn Guk-hyeon, an official with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, said the submarine would collapse if it went deeper than about 200 meters due to pressure. He said his company had upgraded much of the Indonesian submarine’s internal structures and systems, but the latest information about the ship is missing.
Frank Owen, Secretary of the Submarine Institute of Australia, also said the submarine may be too deep for a rescue team to operate.
“Most rescue systems are really only designed for about 600 meters,” he said. “You can go deeper as they have a safety margin built into the design, but the pumps and other systems associated with them may not be operational. So you can survive at this depth, but you don’t necessarily have to operate. “
Owen, a former submarine operator who developed an Australian submarine rescue system, said the Indonesian ship was not equipped with a rescue seat around an escape hatch designed for underwater rescues. He said a rescue submarine would create a watertight connection to a disabled submarine with what is known as a skirt attached over the seat so that the hatch can be opened without the disabled submarine getting in water fills.
Owen said the submarine could be recovered from 1,640 feet without damage, but couldn’t say if it exploded at 700 meters.
In November 2017, an Argentine submarine with 44 crew members went missing in the South Atlantic, almost a year before the wreck was found at a depth of 800 meters. In 2019, a fire broke out on one of the Russian Navy’s deep-sea research submersibles, killing 14 sailors.
The Indonesian military said Thursday that more than 20 naval ships, two submarines and five aircraft were searching an area where the submarine was last discovered. A hydro-oceanographic survey vessel equipped with underwater detection functions was also on its way to the location around the oil spill.
Margono said the oil spill could have been caused by a crack in the submarine tank after the ship sank.
The neighboring countries are rushing to join the complex operation.
Rescue ships from Singapore and Malaysia are expected to arrive between Saturday and Monday. The Indonesian military said Australia, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, India and Turkey had also offered assistance. South Korea said it offered help too.
The Indonesian Navy said an electrical fault may have occurred during the dive, causing the submarine to lose control and be unable to take any emergency measures that would have allowed it to surface again. Rehearsals were held on Thursday for a missile launch exercise that was eventually canceled.